The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
Today’s top April Fools’ joke, as perpetrated by reality: Alan Shearer has been named the manager of Newcastle. Actually, that’s the wrong way to put it. Alan Shearer has been unremittingly named the manager of Newcastle for months and months and months. There are TV commercial heroes for whom every transaction in their daily lives somehow revolves around toothpaste, and that’s how it’s been for Shearer with the Newcastle job. What’s happened today is just that he’s allowed himself to consent to the inevitable, which he’s spent months priming and putting off. This is probably less Prince Hal taking the throne of England than Martha Stewart, in a later iteration of reality programming, agreeing to host her own version of The Apprentice: Alan Shearer, too, reaches a kind of pinnacle of himself by taking this job, even though there’s every reason to suspect that he won’t be very good at it.
In the Guardian, Kevin McCarra has an excellent summary of the logic of the move from Newcastle’s perspective:
Despite all the stereotyping, Newcastle fans are not so naïve as to suppose that Shearer’s fame will cure every ill. They might conclude, though, that there is no harm in seeing what a wave of emotion and publicity might do for a club whose Premier League life was fading away while the country in large took little interest in that demise.
Inspiration—even the kind of prefabricated media narrative of inspiration represented by Shearer, which Newcastle supporters will not so much feel as pantomime—is better than nothing in a shipwreck. Certainly no one is pretending that he’ll offer anything else. “As an analyst,” McCarra writes with controlled understatement, “he has offered sufficient observation without suggesting that he has a piercing insight into the game.” And at the moment he’s only signed on for eight games, implying that at least initially his job is to perform one single saving act of intervention. You can see why that would appeal to Shearer, whose ambivalence about the work of coaching has always appeared to be tempered only by a canny sense of its heroic possibilities. This is, in so many ways, the moment he’s been waiting for.
What I can’t figure out is what Shearer is supposed to offer that Newcastle couldn’t already have gotten from their last purely inspirational, essentially symbolic hero-coach of this season, Kevin Keegan, who at least had some managerial experience. For that matter, why did they bother firing Sam Allardyce? Fifteenth place looks boring until you realize that the alternative isn’t the drama of contending for Europe, but the drama of welcoming a savior who needed the team to suffer in order to provide the proper frame for his calculated act of rescuing it.
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by Brian Phillips · April 1, 2009[contact-form 5 'Email form']